I grew up with two black dogs playing a prominent role in my life. One was called Whitey, a mutt of indeterminate parentage who was my best friend as well as the only creature patient enough to help me work on my cricket skills (he perfected the ball return head flick early on so I could practice bowling. Even today I have to mentally include the feel of dog saliva when I get ready to bowl an outswinger otherwise it doesnt work
Yes, his name was an attempt at irony. Unable to come up with a name, in true Australian fashion I selected one based on our unique sense of inverted humour. I was rewarded with some laughs from vets though. Question: "what breed of dog?" - answer: "black". Quizzical look, followed by vet trying to demonstrate their superior knowledge, followed by embarassment at being unable to work out what wierd mix he was, followed by a quiet - "yes, he is isnt he". Question: "name?" - answer: "Whitey".
The second black dog was a lot less fun to be around. It was depression. If you had asked me at school early on if I was depressed, I would have denied it violently. Depression was something that happened to other people, it was totally uncool, and you never ever admitted to it unles you wanted to be branded forever more as weak and basically paint a target on yourself. Depressed? Nah, i'm just a bit down that's all. Whats it to you fuckwit?
The trouble is I was actually depressed, or in clinical terms suffering from a mood disorder consistent with major depression. The resons were many and deeply distressing, only one of which amongst many involved the inevitable struggle to come to terms with liking guys. In a way the resons though didnt matter as much as the effects.
The trouble with depression is its an illness like any other, and its also not like any other. In particular, the assumptions out there in the wrold regarding depression would be humourous if they werent so bloody serious and destructive. That you can choose to be depressed or not. That depression is contageous (dead set - a friend of mine was isolated from his work colleagues by his workplace on the grounds that his illness constituted a health risk to his colleagues). And that you can somehow "snap out of" a deeply depressed state. It is also challenging because the very symptoms tend to reinforce, in particular the tendency to isolate, which leads to more depression, whciy makes you isolate yourself more etc etc.
I have to say the wild assumptions are pretty much bollocks, or at least to a point. Over time and after much pain , I now have some understanding of the things that contribute to depression for me, and how to work to minimise the risks. But, in the end, I still have a propensity for depression that is probably part genetic and part due to traumas that will leave me at risk for the rest of my life. Coming back from a deeply depressed state though takes time, and its unpredictable.
Snapping out of it, well I wish. One of the more pernicious results of the SSRI revolution is an assumption that antidepressents are a magic bullet that quickly turn you "normal". In reality, if you are very lucky SSRI's may start having therapeutic benefits after 6 - 8 weeks, and even then all it is likely to do is bring you up just enough that you can start other therapies. It is not a fix, just one part in the process and not even one that works for all (or, even by some studies, most).
Finally, I have also found that depression isnt contageous, but trying to keep it quarantined definitely does have bad effects.
Unfortunately, despite all the progress that has been made in recent times though a lot of the crap still persists, swirling around in society like some throwback to darker times. None of this makes life easier. But, in the end, the thing I have found that does work is honesty. The more you talk about it, the easier it is to start to get better, and put the black dog back in his kennel. He may always be there, but he tears up the back yard less often and for less time.
In the end , I had really no choice. Attempting suicide is a great way to take away your options. I can honestly say though that in the end waking up after trying to die is when I started to heal. A lot of that came about because I was finally forced to admit where I was, and to talk about it, no matter how confronting that was to friends and family. It gave me permission in a way, and though I have been bad often since, I never have approached that point again, and slowly in fits and starts I am getting better.
Every day I hope with all my heart that noone else though should have to get to where I was before they start the climb back. That is also one reason why I talk about it. Of my year level at school, 5 out of 125 have committed suicide either during the course of school or in the 5 years since we left school. Scary as those statistics are, in Australia the suicide rate amongst LGBT youth is figured at between 4 and 7 times the rate for non LGBT youth. The suicide statistics are just the tip of the iceberg of course, the most spectacularly visible sign of an epidemic still largely underground. The number of friends and schoolmates I have found in the years since who were in terrible ways but used every ounce fo their available strength to hide it was stunning. And it didnt need to be that way. All of us were running around in our own private hells.
Enough is enough. Silence is not good enough any more, if it ever was. We know better, or we should.
So here, in the barn, I can say what I have learned the hard way to be able to say in the last few years. I am no longer embarassed, or afraid.
My name is Karl, and I suffer from depression. Some days I feel worthless, unable to get out of bed, a complete waste of life. Some days I can only cry. And some days I am ok. I am getting better overall, it is never a straight line, but I am getting better and better able to manage it.
i dont want your pity, but I do want your understanding. This is not a choice, but nor does it have to be a curse. And underneath, I am the same guy, silly, kind of nerdy, but I am not my depression. It isnt who I am, though it may be how I look some days to the outside world.
And it is ok. To talk, to be lost some times, to admit the things that lurk in the dark watches of the night, because the only way to get better is to let them see the light of day, even when that hurts. Its also the best way to find the love and compassion that is the best antidote of all.
Now its your turn. Over to you.
One of the things I found when I came to this site was the amazing openess and love on display about depression. It shouldn't be surprising in some ways, given the statistics on depression, but I have found so many people who have love understanding and advice to give here and it has really helped. One of the best places to connect is the Depression thread
Even if all you want to do is vent, people there are wonderful and understanding.
In Australia, a lot of work has been done by a group called Beyond Blue
Beyond blue is controversial in some ways, but it does a lot of good work making depression a non-taboo subject and providing support and education resources that you can find on their website. Unfortunately one of the reasons for controversy has to do with its stance on GLBT issues: the chair of Beyond Blue is a former conservative politician who was good and bad for the debate. He admitted to depression, which as a state premier was unheard of, but he also has some very conservative attitudes to being gay and that has made it harder for BB to address the particular issues faced by GLBT youth.
That said, their website is great, and their resources are very well put together with a lot of leading clinical input. Whether you may be suffering depression yourself or have someone in your life who you think is, there is a lot there that you could find helpful.
Random Fun Stuff
1. Strange cartoon antics.
I can't remember how I found this site, but I keep going back. It sounds odder than it is, but trust me it is worth a look.
Cartoons constructed using Victorian era cartoon visuals, but set in a current day or steampunk universe. Funny, wierd, insightful, welcome to the world of Wondermark.
Have a look, use the random feature if you like a sample.
2. Deep, deep pleasure
I am not renowned for my cooking skills. OK, I have been known to burn macaroni cheese.
I do however have some strange addiction to Nigella Lawson. Go figure. Now, the answer to the question why may be obvious. Sex. Yes, you heard it here first, Nigella is a dirty dirty cook. People have been saying it about her for some time, and I didnt believe it, but now I cannot deny it. The evidence is in, and your honour must convict.
Real sports, none of this American crap.
AFL Australian Rules Football
The world turns, and Collingwood keeps on improving. Now in 3rd, we face the top team this weekend with glory in our sights. Yes, West Coast Eagles, you are our bitches. (note: Bee).
In other news, Carlton continue to be crap, someone said something about someones mother sparking a brawl, and all is well with the world.
The Super XV competition is in hiatus while internationals are played. In the recent weeks; Australia beat Wales twice, New Zealand beat ireland twice, and South Africa beat England twice.
There is no longer room for doubt......THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE ROCKS. YOU NORTHERNERS ARE OUR BITCHES MWAH HAH HA HAH...sorry, dont know where that came from.
The England v West Indies series came to a waterlogged finish with a draw in a rain ruined match, but not before the West Indian tail enders made the revamped English attack look like a bunch of pie throwers, incluing a laughable 95 from number 11 batsman (and I use the term loosely) Tino Best. And as much as I enjoyedd writing that, there is the nasty feeling that I will regret it some time next year. Oh well.
Well, I should never tip anyone ever again. Sorry Holland, its all my fault. SOme of the predictable teams have made it through to the knockout (hello Spain, Germany, Italy), some fancied teams crashed out (Oh god Holland, that was awful, Russia...sorry). England still have the ability to knock themselves out in the last round of group matches. Things are about to get real. At least Portugal made it, always good to watch, maybe just maybe this time they do more than looking good.
Gratuitous Squirrel Reference
No Squirrels were harmed in this blog. Well...not yet. Apparently though in the USA if you are a baby squirrel you constitute a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER REQUIRING PEPPER SPRAY.
Well, that is all for today. Time for some trackwork, and unless you want to run, maybe you should leave me to it. And maybe bring your own oats next time?
Until the next time